The Quebec government will be introducing legislation that prohibits public employees from displaying religious symbols while at work. This would include items such as crucifixes, kirpans, turbans, hijabs, yarmulkes, etc. Even though there is majority public support for this legislation ther has been a strong backlash with the claim that this impinges on religious freedom. If anyone is interested, I'd like to start a discussion on this. I'm on the "public service positions should at least have the appearance of neutrality" side of the debate. I hear interviews where I wish the interviewer would ask certain qquestions, or respond to answers with specific follow up questions. That's why I'd like a discussion. I am open to dissenting opinions. Any posts that descend into name calling will be deleted. Let's keep it civil, reasonable and logical.

Any takers?

I'm not Canadian, but I am of the belief that this goes completely against religious freedom, at least as the U.S. defines freedom of religion. For many people, yarmulkes, hijabs, turbans, etc. are a required item for their personal level of comfort and/or modesty. I don't know anyone who wears one of these for religious reasons, and would feel even remotely comfortable taking it off for any reason short of immediate risk of danger. I also know people who pray multiple times a day, and/or before they eat a meal, and require access to a prayer book for these times.

As far as I'm concerned, requiring employees to remove these things equates to saying that if your religion in any way affects the way you present yourself in public, you're not welcome to work here. If anything, it does the opposite of setting a tone of neutrality. Instead, it sets a tone of religious intolerance. I'm pretty confident that no one who wears or has a family member who wears a turban, hijab, or yarmule is making up these rules, and to me it comes off as being completely tone-deaf to the underlying reason one wears these.

I don't think this is the same as, "There's a new office policy where we're not hanging personal or religious items on cubicle walls anymore, so let's ensure all personal items are always safely stored in one's desk drawers, out of sight." I think doing something like that is perfectly reasonable.

My feeling is that if they want to have the outward appearance of neutrality, then they can insist on a neutral dress code, require no public discussion of religious or political topics, and all religious items should always be kept out of sight if they are not being actively used or worn.

I'm on the "public service positions should at least have the appearance of neutrality" side of the debate.

I did a quick Google search on the topic, and noticed that public service positions includes teachers, police officers, etc.

I can certainly understand that if you send your child to public school, as opposed to a private or catholic school, you don't expect there to be discussion of relilgion in the classroom. However, children should also learn that people come in all different colors and races and religions. Their first grade teacher might be brown-skinned and wear a hijab; their second grade teacher might be white and wear a yarmulke. Some kids in the classroom might wear turbans, while another kid might wear on one day a traditional outfit from their grandparents' home country that their grandma sewed for them for their birthday.

None of that means that they're studying the torah or the quran in class. It doesn't give the right for a teacher to educate children about why they believe in Jesus. It simply means that they grow up being surrounded by all sorts of people, who come from all different backgrounds, but who all can unite in love of math, or science, or history, or whatever secular subject they're currently learning in the classroom. It can also be a learning experience when kids explain to each other why wearing a turban is important to them, and why they're proud of their heritage. Then, when these kids grow up into young adults, they won't form any preconceived notions when their boss at their first job wears a hijab.

I think the reason why I'm being so passionate about this is because I see a huge difference between doing your best to keep your personal political and religious opinions private while doing one's job as professionally as possible, and being forced to do something that you morally do not feel comfortable doing, in order to keep your job. For many, it comes down to personal comfort, modesty, and what they morally feel comfortable with and don't feel comfortable with. There are women who strongly believe, because that's what's been taught in their family for generations upon generations, that their hair is only for their husband's eyes only. If they're not hurting anyone else, why should they be forced to quit their job (and, as a result, not even receive unemployment compensation because they quit instead of being laid off) just to keep their morals? Don't we want to teach the younger generation that it's okay for everyone to have their own morals and to grow up to respect ourselves by staying true to our convictions and respect each other for our differences?

That's probably at the heart of my unease in looking at this issue. As an atheist, I don't see why religion should be treated any differently than any other subject. I feel that you are free to believe anything you want. But when those beliefs affect others, that's when I start having a problem. I feel that if your faith can be shaken by a rule that says "you can't wear that while you are on the job" then that faith was not very strong to begin with. The teachers who have said "you don't have the right to tell me what I can and cannot wear" seem to forget that there are also dress code rules that state what is and is not appropriate clothing, and nobody has complained about that. For example, female teachers cannot wear mini-skirts and halter tops male teachers cannot wear shorts and half shirts (except in gym class).

A while back (in Canada) it was decided to ban the wearing of kirpans in certain places such as courtrooms. It didn't matter that the kirpan was a ceremonial dagger and a religious symbol. It was still a weapon. Similarly, it is illegal, except at certain times like Halloween, to appear masked in public. Why should any group get an exception for religious reasons? It is a public safety issue. Same thing for saying if you are a Sikh you are not required to wear a motorcycle helmet. That law is only discriminatory if you say it doesn't apply to everyone equally.

There are also certain requirments in the new law for uncovering of one's face for identification purposes. For example, in court or when using a publicly subsidized bus pass (which uses a photo ID).

if your religion in any way affects the way you present yourself in public, you're not welcome to work here

The intent of the law is not to say that your religion prevents you from working here. It is saying that by wearing your religious gear you are in essence promoting your religious beliefs, and that is inappropriate when you are on the public dime. When I worked at the Manitoba Hydro Control Centre, one of the system operators was a Sikh. Some days he wore his turban, some days he did not. We had no rule on the subject, and even if we did, he did not deal with the public. Obviously the turbas was important to him, but not so important that he had to wear it all the time.

Instead, it sets a tone of religious intolerance

Nobody is discriminating against their religion. The new legislation says only that they save their public displays for their own time. Essentially it is saying that whatever your beliefs, you should not be promoting them on publicly funded time. This is the opposite of discriminatory.

There's a new office policy where we're not hanging personal or religious items on cubicle walls anymore, so let's ensure all personal items are always safely stored in one's desk drawers, out of sight." I think doing something like that is perfectly reasonable.

I should also have mentioned that they have grandfathered in existing employees. If you have a particular job (teacher, for example) then the new law will not affect you. New employees, however, would be required to follow it.

My thinking is that people have always been tribal in nature. There has always been, to varying degrees, a feeling of us vs them. Most religions are at their heart, tribal, with rules regarding the penalty for apostasy. In some cases, that penalty is death. In my opinion, the wearing of religious symbols, such as the turban, hijab or yarmulke, is way to promote either inclusion or exclusion. It's a way of saying either "I am a part of a select group" or "you are not part of our group".

Another part of the legislation requires the removal of religious symbols on public spaces, such as from over the Speaker's chair in the legislature.

Incidentally, there was no problem with the wearing of religious symbols as long as they were not publicly visible. And if you can't wear a cross under your shirt/blouse instead of on top then the reason you are wearing it is to promote your faith.

I agree that the new law is contentious but so far the only discussions I have heard have been based solely on emotion and the obvious questions are not being asked, likely because religion is souch a touchy subject. Again, I don't believe any subject should get special treatment when it comes to the open discussion of ideas.

Keep in mind that your 2nd and 3rd posts were made while I was still typing up my 2nd post so things might be a little out of order.

I certainly agree that there is a very large grey area between "religious" and "cultural". It may be hard to distiniguish between whether a particular piece of clothing is cultural or religious in essence. What is a yarmulke to one person is a beanie to another. I think it would be obvious though that if a person were to wear it work it would be either to indicate religious affiliation, if you were Jewish, or to deliberately poke the bear if you were not. In other cases, not so clear. How do you tell one woman she can wear a head scarf and another that she can't wear a hijab?

For the record, I don't have a problem with the discussion of religion in the public classroom as long as such discussion doesn't promote or denigrate a particular religion. Same rules for politics in the classroom.

See what I did there? All ideas open to discussion.

I agree that it can be a matter of public safety that people's faces need to be exposed at certain times (e.g. going through security checkpoints). The U.S., as far as I'm aware, does not have any such law prohibiting being masked in public.

I agree there should be no religious symbols on government-funded public spaces, such as over the Speaker's chair in the legislature, as you mention.

But as you point out, what is a yarmulke to one person is a beanie to another. I also am not of the belief that people are necessarily wearing these things to indicate religious affiliation or to promote ones religion. From my experience, they're often tied closely to one's own sense of morality. Being asked to remove a hijab could be the same to them as you being asked to remove your clothes in public.

As I mentioned in my first post, I feel like trivializing the ease in which it should be to remove these comes off as being completely tone-deaf to the underlying reason one wears these.

The teachers who have said "you don't have the right to tell me what I can and cannot wear" seem to forget that there are also dress code rules that state what is and is not appropriate clothing, and nobody has complained about that.

But again, I think it comes down to people having no issue conforming to rules as long as they don't violate their own personal convictions in order to do so. For example, there are religious people who believe that women must only wear long skirts, and not pants under any circumstances (because the Bible says something about no cross-dressing, and the concept of female-cut pants is foreign to them for some reason). If it suddenly was added to the dress code that everyone must wear pants, these women who were true to their convictions are being forced to quit or change careers. In jobs like an active duty police-person, where it's a matter of safety to wear pants, I can understand. But in a teaching position, it's not a matter of safety. It doesn't cost the government any additional money. It doesn't cost taxpayers any additional money. How is allowing teachers to educate secular subjects while remaining true to their personal convictions hurting anyone?

Obviously the turbas was important to him, but not so important that he had to wear it all the time.

But can you agree that there might be other Sikhs who believe the turban more important, to the point of finding it vulgar to remove? Just because the Skih you worked with did not hold it to that much importance, does not mean that another one won't. I am friends with a Sikh who wears it even while swimming. I've never seen him without it. We traveled to Israel together. He was asked by Israeli security to remove it, and he said that he would not be able to do so. If he was required to in order to do whatever it was we were doing that day (I forget what it was), he would simply instead choose to leave and not participate. In the end, he was allowed to keep it on, but he was prepared to leave.

I feel that if your faith can be shaken by a rule that says "you can't wear that while you are on the job" then that faith was not very strong to begin with.

I completely agree with this. But that's also why I have such a problem with this potential law. Because the people who do have strong faith are essentially being told they are excluded from certain careers. And they aren't doing it to offend anyone, or to spread their religion, or to be part of a "tribe". They're doing it because, ethically, morally, not doing it crosses their personal line of modesty or their personal morals.

I was raised in a school where a handful of kids wore turbans or hijabs. They didn't do so to be part of a "tribe". They were often the only kid in the class or the grade, so wearing it didn't make them feel like they fit in. They were shy little kids, and certainly weren't trying to spread their religion amongst the fifth graders. It probably made them feel like an outsider. But they did it anyways because they had personal morals. Removing it to fit in would probably have been a hell of a lot easier to do than to be in fifth grade and stared at and teased for being different.

I feel like Canada is doing a disservice to young children by not educating them on the importance of religious tolerance, and to stay true to your convictions.

For the record, I don't have a problem with the discussion of religion in the public classroom as long as such discussion doesn't promote or denigrate a particular religion. Same rules for politics in the classroom.

I think that teachers should not be proponents of religion in the public classroom, but I think it's okay, and dare I say beneficial, to deal with situations that may arise in ways that allow children to learn that it's okay to ask questions, learn about different cultures, and understand that everyone has their own sense of personal self-worth and convictions.

A curious 8 year old might say, "Miss Sara, why do you always wear that scarf on your head?" and the teacher can respond with an age-appropriate response saying, "It's because my family is more modest than most other families, and we believe that the head and chest area should never be exposed in public, just like you might feel uncomfortable removing your pants in public." Kids develop an understanding that everyone has their own personal levels of what it means to be modest. It can be turned into a teaching moment, and then left at that.

Our differences seem to stem from the fact that, as an atheist, you see a very distinct line between religion and culture. However, for many of us, our religion is the singular driving force behind our morals, our ethics, our culture, our traditions, our entire value system, our beliefs, even our family structure, etc. Because of religious values, people have arranged marriages. Our religious values define our morality. Our culture is often based on our religion. They are so weaved together that an attack at our religion is a personal attack against everything we believe in and hold dear. I found it particularly interesting when you specified, "It may be hard to distiniguish between whether a particular piece of clothing is cultural or religious in essence." Almost always, religious articles are at the heart of our culture and values, so I found it interesting that you would identify culture and religion as two discrete ideologies.

I know many people who wear yarmulkes on a regular basis. I don't know a single person who wears one because they want to spread Judaism or because they want to let other people know that they are Jewish. That's absolutely, positively not the reason to wear one.

What is a yarmulke to one person is a beanie to another. I think it would be obvious though that if a person were to wear it work it would be either to indicate religious affiliation, if you were Jewish, or to deliberately poke the bear if you were not.

Why do you think that's obvious? Do you truly believe that Jews wear yarmulkes to show their affiliation to Judaism?? Jews wear yarmulkes because they believe, in their heart of hearts, at the inner core of the foundation of their being, that doing so is none other than required by halakha, the collective Jewish laws derived from the torah and biblical commandments. For people who truly believe this, they are not going to do it or not do it because of what anyone at their job thinks or doesn't think. And, believe me, its the furthest thing from their mind that they are doing it so they can make a statement at their work or so other people will know they're Jewish. As we all do, we do what's important to us for ourselves and not for other people.

That being said, even among not-very-religious Jews, it's customary to always, under all circumstances, wear a yarmulke when praying or during religious ceremonies. For example, when sitting down at the Passover table, members of a family will pull out their yarmulkes from the knick-knack drawer in the kitchen before beginning the ceremonial dinner. Certainly members of a family already know each other is Jewish, so it's not like they have anything to prove to each other. And, its done in the privacy of the family home, so they're certainly not doing it to spread Judaism. Why do it then, if your fallacy is to be believed?

My view is simple. I don't tell you how to show your faith and you don't tell me. Deal?

My view is not simple. It requires 20+ paragraphs.

commented: Recently I was asked a few questions and they said "So you're a Federalist?" I really need to look that up. +0

I would consider myself a libertarian. Look at us mingling politics and religion into this one poor thread.

Personally I hate being preached to within news reports and the like (either ereligiously or politically) where I value true neutrality. However, as far as individuals are concerned, at work or play, I see no reason why they should not be able to wear religious symbols as long as they are not evangelizing their belief in the workplace or to customers/clients whatever. I certainly don't regard someone wearing a crucifix nor a hijab nor a pagan tattoo for that matter (I have plenty of the latter as I identify with pagan spiritulaism rather than any formal/organized religion/faith.)

A lack of tolerance, not just in the religious sense, is at the heart of most of the problems in the world today - why add more intolerance into the mix? Live long and prosper, love and peace to all.

A lack of tolerance, not just in the religious sense, is at the heart of most of the problems in the world today ... I value true neutrality

While I agree with that sentiment, I don't agree that we should tolerate everything just because someone believes in it. Racisim, supression of women's rights, FGM - I don't think we should tolerate them regardless of any cultural or religious justification. Anti-vaxxiers, flat earthers, young earth creationists - all promoting patent untruths to children and gullible adults - I don't think we should adopt a neutral policy towards them them by giving them the same significance that we give to evidence-based science.
Yes, of course there's a shortage of tolerance in the world, but we should save our tolerance for people who accept the basic human values of equality, fraternity, truth, and mutual tolerance.

Being asked to remove a hijab could be the same to them as you being asked to remove your clothes in public.

I'll give you that one. The teacher who objected, however, did not cite modesty as her reason but personal choice, which I noted is also impacted by any dress code.

they're often tied closely to one's own sense of morality

I'll get back to one of my original points. If one's sense of morality changes depending on whether or not a particular item of clothing is worn then one's morality is on shaky grounds. I'll claim again that the item is then worn as a statement about one's morality to others.

as long as they don't violate their own personal convictions in order to do so

But that prohibits the imposition of any rules whatsoever. Anyone can then play the "that violates my personal convictions" card. Claiming a religious exception is not valid beacuse there are so many religions the exception list would be enormous.

To give an extreme (but still legitimate) example, to get around marijuana laws, a group in Indiana decided to skirt the law by founding the "First Church of Cannabis" where smoking pot is a sacrament.

because the Bible says something about no cross-dressing, and the concept of female-cut pants is foreign to them for some reason

Doesn't that undercut the objection based on religion argument? Clearly people decide what parts of their religious volume of choice to follow and which to ignore. By that standard how can I seriously consider an argument that says "the bible tells me to do this" when they ignore other parts of the bible that say to, for example, stone adulterers.

How is allowing teachers to educate secular subjects while remaining true to their personal convictions hurting anyone.

It's not hurting anyone that I can see. My personal opinion is that I would not have a problem with a child of mine being taught by someone in a hijab or turban or wearing a necklace with a cross. Perhaps the idea is that it is easier to say "no religious symbols" then to arbitrarily decide on what is acceptable, then spend the next 10 years in litigation as people push the envelope.

They didn't do so to be part of a "tribe"

I think that in a sense they were. In general, your religion (or lack of) is determined your parents. If the turban or hijab is worn out of modesty then it's because you were taught that. And you were taught that because it is a tradition that deliberately sets the tribe apart. I wonder how many of those kids wore their headgear because they were more afraid of offending their parents than they were of ridicule of their peers. In Canada we had a case of a so-called honour killing where a daughter was killed for shaming the family by not wearing a hijab. In that case it might have been a more powerful teaching moment to respond "because my father will have me killed if I do not."

for many of us, our religion is the singular driving force behind our morals, our ethics, our culture

I get that. I also get that you can have the same high standards of ethics and morals without religion. I think one particular incident that shaped my thinking on religion was when a friend of my dad's, on finding out that my dad was an atheist asked him "then what reason do you have to be good?" It occurred to me to wonder how many religious people were "good" only out of fear of punishment in the hereafter. And then I had to wonder if most people's belief in a deity was actual or practical.

Let me explain the difference. If you stand on the street facing an oncoming truck, you get out of the way because you know the truck will kill you. If you really believed in God/Allah/Yaweh you would know that God is always watching and you would act appropriately. Most people don't behave that way so I assume their religion is merely one of convenience (to appear to belong to the tribe).

But I digress.

I know many people who wear yarmulkes on a regular basis. I don't know a single person who wears one because they want to spread Judaism or because they want to let other people know that they are Jewish. That's absolutely, positively not the reason to wear one.

doing so is none other than required by halakha

My question is still "why is it required?" There is (I think) a lot of pressure, at least in strict Judaism, to not marry out of the faith. This maintains the sense of "us" and "them" and the yarmulke is a visible sign of "us". Please correct me if I am wrong. I'm speaking mostly from ignorance here.

Getting back to the original topic, I have to wonder if it would then be acceptable for a male teacher to wear his yarmulke, but under a fedora (or some other acceptable headgear). Perhaps a silly question but I still had to ask it.

Getting back to the original topic, I have to wonder if it would then be acceptable for a male teacher to wear his yarmulke, but under a fedora (or some other acceptable headgear). Perhaps a silly question but I still had to ask it.

I don’t have much time at the moment, but I’ll address this point quickly. Yes, putting a yarmulke under a hat is not only perfectly acceptable, but it is often done. Very religious Jews (ultra orthodox) who wear the long coats and black hats do just that. It’s also very typical for religious younger kids to wear a baseball cap on a regular basis so that they can follow religious law while not standing out. You often don’t realize they’re religious if you don’t know what else to look for. Of course, most professions don’t allow hats to be worn indoors under their dress code. Hats are typically prohibited in the classroom as well.

I feel compelled to just address some of the points you brought up, Jim, as well as clear up any misconceptions.

But that prohibits the imposition of any rules whatsoever. Anyone can then play the "that violates my personal convictions" card. Claiming a religious exception is not valid beacuse there are so many religions the exception list would be enormous.

Firstly, I have absolutely no problem at all with banning anything that may obviously harm public safety. IMHO, people's physical health and safety always trumps religion. If anyone wants to complain that they should have the right to bring a sword on a plane, or cover up their face when going through a security checkpoint, or anything in which someone can cite a good reason why doing so could potentially cause harm, then I am all for not allowing you to play the religion card there. In such cases, the law isn't going after the religion. It's going after the weapon. Or the mask that is hiding someone's identity.

Where I have a problem is with a law that is specifically going after the religion. If there were a religion that said that everyone must always wear pink with purple polkadots, and then a law gets drafted that specifically forbids pink with purple polkadots, yet no other colors or patterns are being persecuted,that's where I have a problem.

Where I have a problem is when a law specifically says that no yarmulkes are permitted, and yet hats and beanies are perfectly fine. In such a case, it's clear you're going after the religion for no other reason than religious intolerance.

I'll get back to one of my original points. If one's sense of morality changes depending on whether or not a particular item of clothing is worn then one's morality is on shaky grounds. I'll claim again that the item is then worn as a statement about one's morality to others.

I agree with you that if one's sense of morality changes, then they don't have strong convictions in the first place. From the beginning, however, my argument has been for the people who do have strong senses of morality (and who wear religious items because of modesty, etc. reasons), and are unfairly being forced out of their careers or potential careers as a result of this law.

Doesn't that undercut the objection based on religion argument? Clearly people decide what parts of their religious volume of choice to follow and which to ignore. By that standard how can I seriously consider an argument that says "the bible tells me to do this" when they ignore other parts of the bible that say to, for example, stone adulterers.

I'm not trying to judge the morality of anyone or how much of their religion they choose or don't choose to follow. I'm just saying that I see an issue with a law that is specifically designed to target religion, and to forbid things that would otherwise be completely benign, such as choosing to become the fashion police just for the sole purpose of being intolerant to religion.

I'm not judging the morality of Jews who choose to wear or not wear a yarmulke, just like I'm not judging Muslims who choose or don't choose to wear a hijab. Of the people who came forward against this potential law, some might have had valid arguments, while others might have had invalid or even silly reasons to be against it. What makes the world go 'round is that everyone has their own opinion and own perspective of things.

What I am saying, however, is that it should be personal choice to wear or not to wear because everyone has their own definition of where their morality and modesty is, and we should all be tolerant of people who are more reserved on the modesty spectrum than we might be ourselves. It's possible many other people cited modesty as a reason to be against this law, but you just weren't aware of that or the media just chose to focus on the more silly reasons people came up with to be against it. I don't know why other people might be or not be against it. I'm just giving my own reason why I am personally against it, given my own beliefs.

It's not hurting anyone that I can see. My personal opinion is that I would not have a problem with a child of mine being taught by someone in a hijab or turban or wearing a necklace with a cross. Perhaps the idea is that it is easier to say "no religious symbols" then to arbitrarily decide on what is acceptable, then spend the next 10 years in litigation as people push the envelope.

Currently, people are allowed to do things as long as they are not coming in the way of public safety. People who want to do things in the name of religion that do come in the way of public safety are already not allowed. As you say, wearing things, whether it's for personal modesty reasons, religious reasons, or whatever the case may be, is not hurting anyone that you can see. So what's the advantage of the new law? What's the advantage of preventing someone from wearing that cross necklace that their deceased husband bought them? What's the advantage of preventing someone from wearing a wedding band that has angels engraved in the side of it? What's the advantage of preventing someone who battles depression from keeping a copy of the bible in their desk if it makes them feel more secure? These people aren't wearing and carrying around these things to show them off, or to harm anyone, or to become missionaries on the job. They're doing it for themselves, for their own personal reasons.

If the turban or hijab is worn out of modesty then it's because you were taught that. And you were taught that because it is a tradition that deliberately sets the tribe apart.

But you don't have a religion (or one could say your religion is atheist), and yet you have your own boundaries of modesty. Yes, you might have been taught them from your parents. But can you say that your personal comfort level exists as a result of being a tradition that was conceived to set atheists apart from everyone else? That's how silly it sounds to me when you say that my personal comfort level was passed down to set us Jews apart from others.

My question is still "why is it required?" There is (I think) a lot of pressure, at least in strict Judaism, to not marry out of the faith. This maintains the sense of "us" and "them" and the yarmulke is a visible sign of "us". Please correct me if I am wrong. I'm speaking mostly from ignorance here.

As somoene who is Jewish, and whose boyfriend is Jewish, I feel like I am qualified to give some input here. My reasons for seeking out someone who was also Jewish was because, as I've indicated above, religion plays a massive role in culture, values, traditions, morality, ethics, etc. I feel particularly blessed that I was able to move out to Silicon Valley and find a fellow geek who is not only also from a Jewish family, but we actually grew up closer to each other in New York than we lived from each other when we met in California. Seeking out someone else who is also Jewish is just an easy way of finding a connection with someone who you know straight off the bat also shares a lot of your traditions, values, culture, etc., all of which are things that can lead to a lot of friction in relationships if two people aren't on the same page. For example, as an atheist, I would think you would want to seek out someone who is not a religious nut, but rather someone who is closer to sharing your values, for much the exact same reasons.

Where I have a problem is when a law specifically says that no yarmulkes are permitted

That crosses a line for sure, except the bill doesn't target any one religion. It bans religious symbols from all religions.

and are unfairly being forced out of their careers or potential careers as a result of this law

For the first part there is the grandfather clause. I see your point for the second part though. There was a case quite a few years back where a Sikh wanted to become a member of the RCMP. The RCMP has a strict dress code that includes a particular hat as part of the standard uniform. This hat was not compatible with the traditional turban so his application was refused. The dress code was not created to exclude Sikhs. It had been in play for many decades before he applied. Should they have allowed him to serve by modifying the dress code?

I'm just saying that I see an issue with a law that is specifically designed to target religion

I also see your point here. People in positions of authority (the people this new law would apply to) would likely be free to show bias for or against many things by a particular fashion choice, as long as it wasn't a bias based on their religion. This flies in the face of my own view which says we shouldn't treat religious ideas any differently than other ideas.

I would think you would want to seek out someone who is not a religious nut, but rather someone who is closer to sharing your values

Well, fer sher. I will point out though that my mother was not an atheist. She and her mother attended church regularly. Fortunately my parents left it up to me to decide for myself. Other than the religion thing they were on the same page on just about everything.

By the way just because someone is religious I do not automatically assume they are a religious nut. I have friends who are religious, and friends who are atheists. And neither side has a monopoly on extreme and unpleasant views.

I certainly appreciate you taking the time to discuss this and as always I respect your opinions.

I just finished watching the 2015 documentary, "Can We Take a Joke" and I was prompted to add one last comment...

When I made my original post I was actually expecting at least one person to reply by calling me either a racist or a bigot or an Islamophobe or something similar. I was instead surprised and pleased to enter into a rational discussion. It may not have come across but I made my post with the intention that I was willing to have my mind changed. That is, after all, the entire point of having a discussion. Maybe that's just an old fashioned idea these days.

Dani, thanks again for your insightful comments.

Glad I could oblige, Jim!!

I've had something else I've wanted to say, as well, and just never got around to it. Since you've updated this thread, I figured I might as well say it now :)

 There was a case quite a few years back where a Sikh wanted to become a member of the RCMP. The RCMP has a strict dress code that includes a particular hat as part of the standard uniform. This hat was not compatible with the traditional turban so his application was refused. The dress code was not created to exclude Sikhs. It had been in play for many decades before he applied. Should they have allowed him to serve by modifying the dress code?

I absolutely feel like they should have allowed him to serve by modifying the dress code!! Not too long in our history, being a police officer was a "man's job". Women were forbidden from being police officers because the excuse was that there were no female uniforms. There are still so many industries today where dress code is an excuse not to progress into gender equality.

And then there was the infamous NASA spacewalk just last month. It made headlines for promoting it was going to be the first-ever all-women spacewalk. Female engineers cheered! Finally, women role models in the sciences! Teachers used it as a valuable lesson to teach in the classrooms. Buuuuuttt, embarassingly it was scrapped at the very last moment because there weren't two female spacesuits readily available.

Check out this article about women in the fire service which says that women firefighters are "more likely to weigh the risks in dangerous situations, practice proper techniques, and ask for help when they need it." However, even today, fire houses don't provide gear that suits women, don't have female facilities, and have policies that blatantly discriminate against women. As a result, women are all but barred from being firefighters.

I don't know about you, but from my perspective, if a uniform was designed a century ago, then the obvious solution is not to discriminate against those who don't fit the uniform. The solution is to modernize the uniform for the current century. We should be hiring the absolute best people for the job, regardless of what their personal grooming needs might be. Whether they need an outfit that can be tailored for a female or for a religious headpiece, as long as it doesn't get in the way of safety or of doing their job, the outfit is the problem, not the person.

To me, it's absolutely absurd that adhering to a dress code is more important than acquiring the skills of a valuable officer. I could see the argument that, for police officers, a consistant dress code is very important so that civilians know they are approaching someone they can trust. However, that goes back to my argument that if the dress code cannot accomidate everyone who is fully qualified to be an officer, the problem is with the dress code, and it means it's time to update it to accomidate the future.

Sometimes the world is just stuck in the past for all the wrong reasons and biting its nose to spite its face.

commented: Small world. I lived in Richmond BC Canada and this came up. There were changes and soon they were on the force. There's more to this story. All good +0

I admit that regarding the uniform debate I was one of those with one foot stuck in the past. Even though the uniform code was not designed to discriminate I realize that there was no good reason not to accomodate change. However, when it comes to female firefighters I am torn. There was a call to loosen the physical strength requirements so that more women would qualify. But I weigh in at 193 lbs (thankfully, recently down from 220), and if I need to be carried from a burning building I would much rather see a firefighter who meets the old physical requirements than someone who might have to struggle.

I don’t want a 500 lb man helping me down a ladder either.

As I mentioned, we should be hiring the absolute best people for the job, regardless of what their personal grooming needs might be. If that means different weight brackets for each set of duties, then that makes sense because, as I mentioned, safety trumps all. If someone is not physically capable of doing the job, then they shouldn’t be given the chance to put other people’s lives in danger.

But a uniform for uniform’s sake doesn’t make sense to me. So, yes, I think that if an ideal candidate for the job doesn’t fit the uniform, the uniform is the problem, not the candidate, and therefore needs to be updated to meet the needs of the candidates of tomorrow. Otherwise we would all be running around wearing uniforms designed for life in the 1400s.

There was a case quite a few years back where a Sikh wanted to become a member of the RCMP. The RCMP has a strict dress code that includes a particular hat as part of the standard uniform. This hat was not compatible with the traditional turban so his application was refused. The dress code was not created to exclude Sikhs. It had been in play for many decades before he applied. Should they have allowed him to serve by modifying the dress code?

I actually just googled this case and discovered that it is inaccurate that the dress code had been in use for many decades before he applied. About a decade earlier, it was modernized to be inclusive for women. So why adapt to be inclusive to women but not extend the same courtesy for other groups the uniform was a problem for a few years later?

Additionally, the department was in specific need of Sikhs because the community that it was serving had a large Sikh population, so there was a strong advantage to getting Sikhs on the force to ease the language and cultural barriers to serve the local community more effectively. It's good that he was able to successfully lobby for change, because doing so meant a better ability for the department to serve the community with no downsides.

Even though there is majority public support for this legislation ther has been a strong backlash with the claim that this impinges on religious freedom.

Jim, us inquisitive non-Canadians need to know. Is this legislation going to be pushed through? Is there still majority public support in favor of it?

It's funny you should post just now. I hadn't heard anything more about this until just this morning. CBC radio interviewed two more people (one from each side) and they couldn't have picked a worse person to argue for the legislation. They did such a poor job that I have reconsidered my stance. I had been leaning in favour of the legislation but now I am leaning more to the "not a good idea" camp. Your arguments helped as well, of course.

I have heard that the bill still has, according to polls, majority public support. I am suspicious, however, that they did not reveal the actual wording of the poll question(s). We know that careful phrasing can lead to the results you want.